MESA, Arizona -- but for what?
A day after Mark Prior looked like he couldn't get minor leaguers out, despite the Cubs' spin on it, they seem determined to make him show everyone that he can't get major league hitters out, either.
I have learned that, barring any "setbacks" (and lord knows, we have those announced all the time), Mark Prior will indeed take a major league mound again soon -- next Thursday against the Padres in Peoria.
If the Padres hit anything like they roughed up five pitchers this afternoon in a 7-3 defeat of the Cubs, it will be a long afternoon for Mr. Prior next Thursday. I think I'll bring extra money for food & drink that afternoon -- it may be a long one.
That summary isn't really fair to a couple of the Cub pitchers victimized by ten Padres hits today, either. The leadoff triple by Marcus Giles was, once again, over Alfonso Soriano's head -- he seemed to get a late break on the ball and misjudged how far it was going to go. Soriano did make a couple of decent plays later in the game, but he is clearly a work in progress. The contrast couldn't have been more stark in the ninth inning, by which time Felix Pie was in center field -- he made a nice running catch and although a run scored on the play, Pie also rifled an accurate throw to his cutoff man.
But unless a deal is made involving Jacque Jones -- and I'm not advocating dumping him for nothing, because Jones can be a useful player if used properly -- Pie will start the year at Iowa.
Rich Hill allowed a run after that triple, and two more after he hit Kevin Kouzmanoff to lead off the second; Jose Cruz Jr. (why didn't the Cubs pick up this guy? He'd have been a perfect platoon partner for Jones!) followed with a homer, tying the game at three.
That was after Derrek Lee hit a prodigious home run that bounced off the sidewalk behind the grass berm in left-center field and landed in the parking lot beyond -- I'd estimate that blast as being at least 460 feet. Lee also doubled today -- clearly, the awkward slide that forced him to leave last Tuesday's game was no big deal at all, he seems perfectly fine.
Will Ohman was the losing pitcher today and he didn't deserve it. Why? Because the triple by the other Giles, Brian, leading off the sixth off Ohman, should have been a single; Jones made an ill-considered dive to try for an uncatchable ball and it rolled all the way to the fence, Soriano in hot pursuit. A faster runner might have turned it into an inside the park HR. Ohman did get the next two hitters, including a nice bending curveball to strike out Todd Walker (hitting cleanup? Are the Padres that hard up?), but then Kouzmanoff, who is showing Padres fans why they traded Josh Barfield for him, singled in what turned out to be the winning run. Kouzmanoff also homered off Neal Cotts -- who had nothing today, and who's been having a terrible spring.
The Padres brought over a whole bunch of players I had never heard of, and didn't hear of during the game, either -- the PA system is still almost inaudible on the LF lawn. But I learned that Manny Alexander came into the game in the sixth inning to play SS.
Manny Alexander? How old is he, anyway? Sixty?
(Yes, I know he's not sixty. Just seems like he's been around forever.)
After Rob Stauffer (filling in for Greg Maddux, who threw in a Padres minor league game today, nursing a minor injury) gave up the homer to Lee, six Padres relievers (I'd heard of two of them, Heath Bell and Royce Ring) held the Cubs to only five hits over the last eight innings. Michael Barrett had a tough day in the field, dropping a foul popup for one error, then throwing a ball wildly on a stolen base attempt minutes later for his second error of the inning. He also went 0-for-3 at the plate.
I did like the lineup today, though, despite its relative lack of production. Soriano walked leading off the game and Matt Murton, hitting second (LOVE IT, LOU! KEEP DOING THIS!), singled, and that was followed by Lee's HR. This sort of thing could happen often during the regular season if this lineup is used. Also, I liked Ryan Theriot appearing again in right field in the late innings -- this only increases his versatility and usefulness to the club.
Why is Les Walrond still in a Cubs uniform?
I met up with and sat with BCB reader mrcubsfan, who is here for a few days from Iowa with his son; we had quite a long discussion about Mark Prior's appearance yesterday and other ballclub-related things. Also ran into Tom and Ginger, who sit with us occasionally in the LF bleachers. Tom was wearing a blue fez with the Cubs logo on it and a tassel. That wasn't as odd as some of the green St. Patrick's Day stuff some other people were wearing, or the woman wearing green who sprinkled multicolored glitter all over our general area after Lee's HR. I sampled more of the new concessions, this time a "Buffalo Chicken" sandwich, which was also quite good and a cut above a lot of ballpark fare.
It was 93 degrees at game time, but some high clouds obscured the sun for a while and a breeze came through, making the day not quite as oppressively hot as yesterday was.
One final note about future games; I also learned today that Sean Gallagher will start the split-squad game at Maryvale on Monday (Wade Miller should get the start at Mesa). I'll be attending the game vs. the Brewers at Maryvale, so will file a full report on Gallagher, who I've been interested in seeing anyway.